Trip at a Glance
- June 7 – 18, 2018
- Daily practice with Jamyang Oliphant, PhD
- Accompanied by Julia Hirsch from Tricycle: The Buddhist Review
- Escorted by BJ & Lauren, owners of RetreaTours
- Explore the ancient Kingdom of Ladakh, nestled high in the Tibetan Plateau
- Limited to 12 guests
- Early bird price of $4999 (USD) per person (based on double occupancy)
- After February 7, 2018, price is $5299 (USD) (based on double occupancy)
This trip is currently sold out. Please complete the registration questions below if you’d like to join the waiting list for this trip or to be the first to know when we plan another Ladakh Pilgrimage.
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Daily teachings with Jamyang Oliphant
Meditation and morning puja with Tibetan Buddhist monks
Cultural heritage presentation with Dr. Sonam Wangchuk (his schedule permitting)
Share meals with the monks in their homes and in the Monastery dining hall
Healing session with an oracle
Visit with a traditional Tibetan doctor
Explore Thiksey Village and surrounding area
Spend 3 nights directly along the Indus in Uleytokpo
Pilgrimages to monasteries from various Tibetan Buddhism sects
Receive a blessing from Thiksey Rinpoche (contingent on his travel schedule)
LEARN MORE ABOUT LADAKH
BJ and Lauren of RetreaTours have a deep love and special relationship with Ladakh. Please click the button below to learn more about this magical region, including suggested pre-trip reading.
Journey to Ladakh Itinerary
This is intended as a brief outline of our activities while in Ladakh, beyond daily practice with Jamyang Oliphant. As we will be a small group, we are blissfully flexible, fluid, and will base each day’s activities on the wishes of the group and the schedule of the monks and their families.
You’ll be met at the New Delhi airport on the evening of June 7th and you’ll be staying at a nearby 5-star hotel in order to rest up before your gorgeous flight on the morning of the 8th. The flight from Delhi to Leh is only an hour long, but it’s one of the most picturesque flights on the planet. It will take you directly over the Himalayas, allowing you a rare, lofty perspective on this part of the world.
Upon arrival in Leh, you’ll take a short but beautiful drive to Thiksey Monastery to get settled. We’ll spend this day acclimating to the altitude and leisurely exploring some of the magnificent grounds. We will stay at Thiksey’s monastery’s guesthouse for the duration of our trip, with the exception of three nights that we’ll stay directly on the Indus River in Uleytokpo (June 13 – 15). Uleytokpo is an ideal home base to explore monasteries that are west of Leh, including Alchi and Lamayuru, which is within Ladakh’s famous “moonscape.”
Some of our activities during the rest of our journey include:
- A thorough exploration of Thiksey Monastery, one of the most beautiful and influential monasteries in Ladakh.
- We’ll attend special pujas in the Protector Temple, as well as morning pujas in the Prayer Hall.
- A private audience with the Thiksey’s head lama, Rinpoche Kushok Nawang Chamba Stanzin (his schedule permitting)
- Dialogue with the monks about Tibetan Buddhism & Philosophy.
- Fun, informal cooking and cultural lessons with the families of the monks.
- Walks around Thiksey monastery and surrounding areas.
- An informative photo tour around Thiksey monastery with BJ Graf.
- Three nights accommodation directly on the Indus River in Uleytokpo, complete with stargazing and bonfires
Under Jamyang Oliphant’s expert guidance, we will also experience:
- A healing session with a female Oracle/shaman
- Discussions about Tibetan Medicine
- A visit a traditional Tibetan doctor
- Participation in a cultural preservation workshop at the historic Lonpo House
There are scores of monasteries in Ladakh, and we will pay a visit to some of our favorites, time permitting, including:
- Lamayuru Monastery is Ladakh’s oldest monastery, set in a stunning “lunar landscape” and affiliated with the Drikung Kagyu school of Buddhism. Here you can view a meditation cave used by Naropa
- Likir Monastery, with its beautiful 3D mandala and 75′ tall Maitreya statue.
- Stakna Monastery, situated on a hill overlooking the Indus river. Stakna, a Druk monastery, is renowned for its beautiful, vivid murals.
- Alchi Monastery, a Gelug monastery directly along the Indus River which houses some of the oldest surviving paintings in Ladakh.
- Stakmo Monastery, including Lhakhang Serpo, the very first Gelug school in Ladakh.
On the morning of June 18th, you’ll fly from Leh to Delhi (one more chance to see that gorgeous vista!) We can help arrange further travels in the region or you can head back home to reflect, process, and practice all you’ve experienced.
Our Accommodation in Thiksey
We will be staying at Thiksey Monastery’s guesthouse, with a gorgeous view of the monastery itself. In fact, this guesthouse is where the His Holiness the Dalai Lama stayed during his August 2016 visit to Thiksey. Although the monastery’s guesthouse is simple, it is clean, and each room has ensuite bathrooms and hot water. Wifi can be very sporadic, due to our very remote location, and the best wifi reception is in the common areas.
Our guesthouse has an on-site vegetarian restaurant, featuring Tibetan specialties & northern Indian classics. Most importantly, we are an extremely short walk to the monastery, which is beneficial for early morning pujas and exploration. Pictured here: A view from inside one of the 2nd floor guest rooms towards Thiksey Monastery.
Our Accommodation in Uleytokpo
For three nights we’ll make Uletokpo’s Ule Ethnic Resort our home, in order to explore the monasteries of Lamayuru, Likir, Alchi & more. We’ll perch directly above the Indus in our cottages, with gorgeous meeting spaces for our classes and meditations. This quaint riverside resort even has a spa, if you want to get a massage on the Rooftop of the World! We can even enjoy a bonfire in each other’s company.
If you’d like to extend your journey before or after this RetreaTour, we would be more than happy to help you plan your stay! We can advise you on hotels, flights, and itineraries, whether you want to arrive in India early or stay on afterwards (or both!) We can also set you up for a tour of beautiful Bhutan, Nepal, or anywhere else in South or Southeast Asia. We offer our RetreaTour™ guests free travel consulting, a $300 value.
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Your Daily Practice
In addition to morning pujas with the monks and time for personal practice, guests can enjoy sessions of breathing exercises and meditation with Jamyang Oliphant, in addition to daily dharma talks.
Price & What is Included
This retreat fee is $4999 USD per person (double occupancy) before February 7, 2018. After February 8, the price is $5299 USD. This price only covers the actual retreat, not international airfare (for a full list of inclusions, please see below).
A $1000 deposit holds your space. The second installment of $2500 is due by February 7, 2018 (120 days before the start of the trip) and the balance is due by April 8, 2018 (60 days before the start of the trip). Single supplement ($399) is due along with the last installment.
If you prefer to have your own room, the single supplement is $399 USD and will be added to your last payment. (Click here to understand why this single supplement is necessary). Please note that we cannot guarantee you a roommate for this trip, and if you room alone, you will be responsible for the single supplement.
- Roundtrip airfare from Delhi to Leh
- All accommodation
- All meals
- All site fees
- All tips at hotels and restaurants
- Donation to Thiksey Monastery
- Donation to the Tricycle Foundation
- Daily practice with Jamyang Oliphant, PhD
Price does not include:
- International airfare (although we can and will be more than happy to help you decide on arrangements)
- Indian visa fee (~$50 to $75 USD, depending on nationality; $75 for US citizens)
- Travel insurance (required
Please refer to the Price tab for specific information about price & what is included on your journey.
We accept payments via check and credit or debit card (via PayPal). For our guests outside the U.S., please write [email protected] for the best transfer details, to save you from PayPal’s 2.5% currency conversion charge.
- Paying by Check (preferred method): Checks can be made out to RetreaTours and sent to 8821 NW 14 Street, Pembroke Pines, FL 33024.
- Paying by Credit Card or PayPal balance: You can pay with credit card or PayPal balance through the following the green buttons below. Please click the appropriate amount to be taken to PayPal’s homepage to complete your transaction. All PayPal transactions must be in USD. Note that you do not have to pay with your PayPal balance; please click here if you’d like further instruction.
Final installment due on April 8, 2018. We will email you an invoice before the final due date.
Registration Questions & Contract
Please click here to go to this Google Form (https://goo.gl/forms/qfBTEnCmYPeWqNXv2) to complete this journey’s Registration. You will be asked for your passport number; if you will need to renew your passport before this trip, simply fill in your old information and update us when you receive your new passport.
At the end of the form, please press “submit” to finalize your answers. Your spot is not considered reserved until you have completed these questions and contract on the website.
About the Altitude
Our home base at Thiksey Monastery in Ladakh rests at a lofty 11,000 ft (3350 m). We plan our first few days very lightly, to allow you to acclimatize.
Some pre-existing medical conditions are known to worsen at high altitude, so it is imperative that you discuss your pre-existing medical condition/s with your physician.
Certain medications are utilized to aid acclimatizing to high altitude, such as Diamox (generic: Acetazolamide); please discuss these options with your doctor or a local travel physician.
Here are some resources for you to read about altitude sickness, its symptoms, prevention, and treatment:
- http://www.travelconsultants.biz/prevent-altitude-sickness (written by BJ)
- http://www.treksafe.com.au/medical/altitude_illness.htm (written by a high-altitude medicine specialist)
The following is taken from traveldoctor.co.uk/altitude.htm:
Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)
AMS is very common at high altitude. At over 3,000 metres (10,000 feet) 75% of people will have mild symptoms. The occurrence of AMS is dependent upon the elevation, the rate of ascent, and individual susceptibility. Many people will experience mild AMS during the acclimatisation process. The symptoms usually start 12 to 24 hours after arrival at altitude and begin to decrease in severity around the third day.
The symptoms of Mild AMS include:
- Nausea & Dizziness
- Loss of appetite
- Shortness of breath
- Disturbed sleep
- General feeling of malaise
Symptoms tend to be worse at night and when respiratory drive is decreased. Mild AMS does not interfere with normal activity and symptoms generally subside within two to four days as the body acclimatises. As long as symptoms are mild, and only a nuisance, ascent can continue at a moderate rate. When hiking, it is essential that you communicate any symptoms of illness immediately to others on your trip.
You may consider using ibuprofen as a preventative (if this is something that is safe for you and you have discussed with your physician). “Ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory medication often used as a painkiller, was found to significantly reduce the incidence of altitude sickness in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 86 men and women, according to the study, published online March 20 in Annals of Emergency Medicine.” [Source: https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2012/03/ibuprofen-decreases-likelihood-of-altitude-sickness-researchers-find.html]
We recommend that, if it is safe for you, you start taking ibuprofen 24 hours before your arrival to Ladakh (take as often as instructed on the bottle).
It is important to keep us informed about how you feel and we will be checking in with you regularly.
Sleeping pills are respiratory depressants and should be avoided, as they slow down the acclimatization process.
Click here to read Lauren’s suggestions to natural therapies to begin before your trip. Lauren is a Board-certified Acupuncture Physician and Doctor of Oriental Medicine with a specialty in the world of dietary supplements.
*All of the information here is for reference purposes only and is not intended to substitute for advice from a licensed health care professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health condition or disease. If you are experiencing medical issues, you should contact your medical healthcare provider.
FAQ (aka, Everything You're Wondering Right About Now!) Visas, Health, Hotels, Food, Money & more.
- Passport and Visa information
- Health & Vaccines, Altitude, Travel Insurance
- Money & How to Get Local Currency
- What do I need to know about the visa?
First and foremost, your passport MUST be valid at least 6 months beyond the end date of the trip (that is, December 16, 2019), and you’ll need two empty pages in the Visas section of your passport (make sure they are in the Visa section, not the Amendment or Endorsement section). You will need to arrange an Indian visa before you arrive; we will provide you more detailed information before you apply for your visa.
You can apply for a Visa on Arrival 4 to 120 days in advance of your arrival on this website. Please click here to read our blog about how to apply for this visa. (Please click here to make sure your country is eligible for a Visa on Arrival).
If you plan on staying in India longer than 60 days, you can apply through Cox & Kings Global Services, but you must allow more time for this process (start at least 3 to 4 months before the start of the trip). Please let us know if you prefer this option.
- I have special dietary needs—can I be accommodated?
Vegetarians should have no problem anywhere on our travels (in fact, our monastery guesthouse is exclusively vegetarian). The only thing that might prove difficult is veganism in India. Although meat is entirely avoidable, India is the world’s largest consumer of butter, and it is almost unavoidable in most of their curries, stews, and even breads. Many vegans that we have known to travel through India adopt what is locally referred to as a “pure veg” diet: no meat, no eggs, but it allows for dairy consumption. (It is worth nothing that some of the reasons for avoiding dairy consumption in the west is slightly mitigated here, as there is less factory farming and antibiotic use in livestock.) Milk can be avoided by not consuming creamy dishes or milk tea.
Gluten is also avoidable in India by choosing rice over chapatis and other local breads. Celiactravel.com has GREAT printable cards in local languages to present to restaurants and hotels about your intolerance of gluten. Click here for the Hindi version. If you have multiple dietary needs, it may be worth your while to check out these specialty cards, available in 60 different languages.
When you register for a trip, you will answer a set of questions, including a question about food allergies. We’ll take a look at your answers and let you know if we have any suggestions or concerns.
- Can I drink the water?
In a word, No. Although many cities around the world are getting more advanced public water systems, we don’t recommend it. Not only from a pathogen standpoint, but it’s a different set of bacteria than your body is used to. Why risk an upset stomach if you don’t have to? We recommend drinking only bottled water, and you will want to rinse your toothbrush off in bottled water.
- What vaccines do I need?
None are required to enter India, but we suggest you work with your physician or your area’s travel health expert to decide what options are best for you. You can read the CDC’s recommendations here and the Scottish NHS recommendations here.
- What about the altitude?
Please see our separate toggle on this web page about the altitude.
- What about malaria?
Malaria is not a risk in Ladakh, but again, we request that you work with your physician or travel doctor when making these choices. Please see our blog about this topic for more information.
- What are the physical requirements for this trip?
Participants should be able to comfortably climb stairs, slowly but in a stable fashion. Our guesthouse is at the bottom of the hill Thiksey is built on, and the prayer hall and upper temples are 8-10 stone staircase flights above the highest place we can get dropped off by a vehicle. From the guesthouse, it is 400 feet to the top of the monastery. Please see the separate section on this page titled “Suggested Fitness Requirements.”
- Do I need travel insurance?
We require that our guests carry travel insurance because it just makes sense. It’s a relatively small expense but affords huge peace of mind! When choosing a travel insurance policy we require that you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We also recommend you take out trip cancellation insurance, as this may cover cancellation penalties in certain circumstances if you have to cancel your trip unexpectedly due to illness, injury or unforeseen circumstances.
We like World Nomads, but ultimately you have to choose the one that is right for you. If you’re 70 years old or older, you’ll need to use a different company. You can see our suggestions here. We’ll be asking for confirmation of your travel insurance 60 days before your departure. Please click here to get a quote. We love the services of these companies so much that we became affiliates, so we would ask that if you do choose to purchase these policies, you do it through our links.
- How much money should I bring?
That is entirely up to you and how much shopping you want to do in Leh (and the monastery gift shop!). All of your meals and transportation is covered, so you just have to gauge how much you want to spend on extras.
- How do I get the local currency?
You can either exchange cash in India or use a local ATM (which we prefer). Just make sure you call your bank and credit card company to let them know you’ll be traveling in India, so they don’t put a hold on your card when they see it being used halfway across the world.
- What kind of hotels will we be staying at?
We will be staying at the Monastery’s guesthouse (with a gorgeous view of the monastery), and although it is simple, it is clean, has hot water, an attached bathroom with a western toilet, and the occasional wifi (please see the communication section below for more about the wifi). Most importantly, we are an extremely short walk to the monastery, which is beneficial for early morning pujas and exploration.
Our first night in Delhi will be a 5-stat hotel just a 10 minute drive from the airport.
You can see photos of our Thiksey guesthouse and Uleytokpo room interiors in the album at the bottom of this page.
- Will I be able to charge my electronics (phone, iPad, etc)?
Yes, just be sure to bring along a 2-pin European style converter. Better yet, grab a Universal Travel Adaptor that can go with you anywhere in the world!
- How can my family get ahold of me in an emergency?
Before the trip begins we will give you a contact for our hotels; in addition, we will give you our Ladakhi phone numbers ahead of time, as well as an American number good for text messages and voicemails.
Even if you have an international plan, chances are you will not get cell coverage in remote Ladakh. This is a very isolated part of the world, up high in the Himalayas, but we will do our best to ensure you are as connected as you want to be. If you choose to bring your cellphone or tablet, you can use VoIP services such as Skype, WhatsApp, and FaceTime to connect with your loved ones at home, as well.
- About the Wifi
Ladakh is still modernizing their internet connection, and internet connectivity can go out for days at a time, region-wide. Even when there is internet, it will be much slower than you may be used to. In emergencies, we’ll always have a phone you can use to check in at home, even when there is no internet.
Suggested Fitness Requirements
Participants should be able to comfortably climb stairs, slowly but in a stable fashion, sometimes without handrails. Our guesthouse is at the bottom of the hill Thiksey Monastery is built on, and the prayer hall and upper temples are still about ~100 stairs from the highest place we can get dropped off by a vehicle. From the guesthouse, it is 400 feet to the top of the monastery (or about ~475 stairs). It is normal to feel winded climbing stairs at altitude–slow and steady wins the race.
Please see the “About the Altitude” section on this web page for more important information.
At many of the places we visit, we will be sitting on the floor (or on very low mats); guests should feel comfortable sitting on the floor for 20-30 minutes at a time (although you are certainly able to get up and stretch your legs at any time).
If you are traveling with RetreaTours, we require that each guest carries travel insurance that covers emergency medical treatment and emergency evacuation and repatriation.
We suggest trip cancellation insurance, as well, as you never know what obstacles life can toss at you leading up to a trip. However, we do not require this coverage, we only suggest it highly.
Below you will find some options to look into, if this is a new world to you. However, we ask that you carefully consider your choice in travel insurance. What works for some people may not work for others, particularly if you have any pre-existing conditions. Please do take the time to consider the best policy for your individual needs.
World Nomads provides medical coverage for guests under 70 that includes trip cancellation, as well. You can use the box on this page to get a quote and see coverage.
InsureMyTrip.com is a good place to see and compare many policies at once, and you can refine the options by what coverage you would like.
It may also be a good idea to check with your credit card companies, especially American Express, to see if they offer any medical coverage for travel.
About your International Flights
We are more than happy to recommend international flights, but ultimately you will make the purchase yourself. Here is some important information if you would like to research flights yourself:
When must I arrive in Delhi?
Dinner is included your first night in Delhi (June 7th) but it is ok if you arrive after dinnertime. However, you must arrive before 1 AM on June 8th because we fly to Ladakh early that morning.
When is it safe to book my departing flight?
You will be leaving Ladakh the morning of June 18th, and although it’s usually clear this time of year, delays are always possible. We would recommend making your return flight home no earlier than 5 PM on June 18th—perhaps even later to account for any potential delays.
Temperature & Suggested Packing List
Based on historical averages and 2016’s temperatures, the typical temperature while we are in Leh will be 50° to 85° F (10° to 29° C), and although rain is not likely, it is possible. It can feel quite hot in the sun and chilly in the shade, so layers are going to be your best friend on this trip!
Note: the weight limit on your internal flights (from Delhi to Leh and return) will be 44 lbs (20 kg), not the 50 lbs that you may be used to domestically in the USA. If you prefer to only bring a carry-on, you’re welcome to do that, as well.
Although more and more Indians are adopting Western wear, traditional clothing is very prevalent and modesty is the name of the game (particularly around the monastery!) Please do not wear clothes that are tight, transparent or show too much skin or underarms. This means no tank tops or mid-riff baring tops (even for your yoga gear). We also discourage wearing form-fitting “skinny” jeans and shorts/skirts above the knee. Instead, we recommend wear loose fitting clothing such as long skirts, pants, capri-length pants, and t-shirts, collared shirts, blouses or tunics.
- 8+ pairs undergarments; you can always have them washed or wash them yourself in your bathroom.
- 3-5 pair pants or long skirts. You may want to bring leggings or long johns (2 or 3 pair) to wear under your long kurtas, tunics, skirts or pants on chilly mornings or evenings (again—it’s all about the layers!) Fleece pants might be nice, and good to sleep in (remember, the nights are going to be in the 40’s to 50’s)
- 4-5 cotton t-shirts, blouses, or long sleeve shirts.
- A thicker sweater or jacket for cold Ladakh mornings and evenings.
- A windbreaker or shell might prove useful if your jacket doesn’t protect you from the wind or rain.
- A warm hat and scarf for chilly mornings and evenings.
- 2-3 pairs of socks. Wool (like SmartWool) or tech socks work very well, but whatever socks you have will be just fine.
- Warm sleeping attire
- Comfortable walking shoes. Boots aren’t necessary and can be cumbersome when going in and out of monasteries and temples. Sneakers or comfortable slip-ons will suffice.
- Walking sandals (such as Teva’s, Chaco’s, or Merrell’s) also work very well here.
- A hat with a brim is a very good idea for our daytime adventures.
- Ear plugs and eye shades to help you sleep better and recover from jet lag more quickly. BJ swears by this—click here to read an article he wrote on the topic.
- Good sunscreen is CRITICAL at this altitude. Lauren prefers mineral-based ones: good for you, good for the environment. How do you know if it’s mineral based? If the active ingredient is either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide—that’s it. MyChelle and Devita make good ones.
- Daypack or camera bag. (If you need a recommendation on a camera, BJ would be happy to help, depending on what type of photography you like, how much you want to spend, and how much you want to carry around.)
- If you do bring your camera, don’t forget extra batteries or your charging cord. You may want to think about an extra memory card, too.
- Toiletries (including shampoo and conditioner)
- A few packs of travel tissues is a good idea, to keep on you for public restrooms.
- Wet wipes or hand sanitizer.
- Any necessary feminine hygiene products.
- Plug adaptor for electronics: you’ll need a 2 pin adaptor common across Europe. Here’s a nice example of a great universal adapter and here’s one with USB ports, as well.
- An external battery charger, such as this one, may be useful for USB-powered objects. Given the remote location of this retreat, electricity can be finicky, so it is best to have a secondary way to charge your phone or camera.
- VERY IMPORTANT! A print out of your RETURN airline ticket itinerary; you’ll need this to enter the airport to get home. You can also have a copy (we recommend a screenshot) on your phone.
- Photocopy of your passport and your visa, just in case you need them.
- A small travel umbrella is a must. It can work for rain OR as a parasol
- Notebook and pen for journaling purposes
- Enough of any prescription drugs you need, as well as over-the-counter needs. We recommend Imodium (anti-diarrheal), a probiotic (Lauren is a BIG fan of Jarrodophilus EPS), as well as melatonin and Benadryl for jet lag purposes.
- The guesthouse at the monastery in Ladakh has Internet, but outages are not uncommon (all over Ladakh). Nevertheless, we encourage you to bring your smartphone or tablet, and please don’t forget your chargers! We recommend setting up Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, or another wifi-based calling service before leaving home, and familiarizing your loved ones with it before you leave.
Please write [email protected] for any questions you may have about this journey. Please include “Ladakh with Tricycle in 2018” in your subject line. If you have not received a reply within 48 hours, please do check your spam folder.
About Jamyang Oliphant, PhD
Jamyang Oliphant, PhD has traveled and lived in Asia for much of his life. In Japan as a teenager, he studied Aikido before spending two years in Northern Thailand.He then developed his interest in Asiatic religions, languages, and cultures in his studies; first at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies and then at the Oriental Institute at Oxford where he completed his doctoral thesis on rejuvenating Tibetan medical practices in 2016. There he led post-graduate seminars for the Inner and South Asian department and gave talks on Tibetan religious practices and contemporary issues in Tibet. In his work for the Pitt Rivers Museum in
In his work for the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford he has assembled and cataloged an important collection of Bhutanese photography and art. He is a published author and is now working on several publications, including an illustrated travel guide to Bhutan. In recent years he has traveled extensively in India, China and Bhutan and has led tours to Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Eastern Tibet, Ladakh and Nepal.
His particular interest is in Tibet, nourished by his many years of study of Himalayan cultures, and his forthcoming tour offers a rare opportunity to explore some lesser known aspects of the area.
About Julia Hirsch
Julia Hirsch, Tricycle’s web and online learning manager, is passionate about Buddhist philosophy and practice. Currently based in Brooklyn, New York, Julia has spent time living and studying Eastern religious traditions in India, Nepal, Southeast Asia, and New Zealand. She was deeply marked by her time in Boudhanath, Nepal, where she studied with Tibetan Buddhist master Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche at his resident monastery.
Her Sanskrit and Nepali may be rusty, but she’s looking forward to reconnecting with Himalayan communities—and centuries of rich Buddhist heritage—on the upcoming pilgrimage to Ladakh, India. She’s also a longtime yogi, proud owner of six dogs, and hopelessly addicted to New York bagels and coffee.
Established in 1990 as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization, The Tricycle Foundation is dedicated to making Buddhist teachings and practices broadly available. In 1991 the Foundation launched Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, the first magazine intended to present Buddhist perspectives to a Western readership. Tricycle soon became the leading independent journal of Buddhism in the West, where it continues to be the most inclusive and widely read vehicle for the dissemination of Buddhist views and values.
Our readership includes longtime practitioners, those who are curious about Buddhism or meditation, and those who do not identify as Buddhist but value the teachings of wisdom and compassion that Buddhism has to offer. By remaining unaffiliated with any particular teacher, sect or lineage, Tricycle provides a unique and independent public forum for exploring Buddhism, establishing a dialogue between Buddhism and the broader culture, and introducing Buddhist thinking to Western disciplines. This approach has enabled Tricycle to successfully attract readers from all walks of life, many of whom desire to enrich their lives through a deeper knowledge of Buddhist traditions.
Tricycle has been recognized with the prestigious Folio Award for Best Spiritual Magazine three times, and has twice garnered the Utne Media Award, most recently in 2013. As part of our commitment to our readers who are seeking to implement or sustain Buddhist values and practices, Tricycle accepts advertising only from teachers, programs, centers, and businesses whose offerings we believe will support those aims. Because of this selective policy, we depend on donations to support ever-rising printing and production costs, content updates to our website, and life-enriching programs. The Foundation also hosts occasional pilgrimages that provide opportunities for new and experienced practitioners to explore sites of importance to Buddhist history and practice.
The mission of The Tricycle Foundation is to create forums for exploring contemporary and historic Buddhist activity, examine the impact of its new context in the democratic traditions of the West, and introduce fresh views and attainable methods for enlightened living to the culture at large. At the core of the Foundation’s mission is the alleviation of suffering that Buddhist teachings are meant bring about. Tricycle is an independent foundation unaffiliated with any one lineage or sect.
A three-wheeled vehicle aptly evokes the fundamental components of Buddhist philosophy. Buddhism itself is often referred to as the “vehicle to enlightenment,” and the tricycle’s three wheels allude to the three treasures: The Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, or the enlightened teacher, the teachings, and the community. The wheels also relate to the turning of the wheel of dharma, or skillfully using the teachings of the Buddha to face the challenges that the circle of life presents.
About BJ and Lauren of RetreaTours
RetreaTours is perfectly suited to facilitate your time in Ladakh. BJ Graf has been traveling to Ladakh and Thiksey Monastery since 1995. He was invited as Thiksey Monastery’s official photographer for the Dalai Lama’s Summer 2010 visit to Nubra Valley and again for HHDL’s August 2016 Thiksey Monastery visit and his 2017 teachings at Disket Monastery. In addition, one of BJ’s portraits of Thiksey Rinpoche graces the cover of his recent biography.
Having developed deep and personal connections to many lamas (monks) at Thiksey, BJ and Lauren have secured access to sacred prayer halls otherwise inaccessible to the public. In addition, you’ll experience a warm welcome into the homes of the monks and their families in the village for tea, dinner, and thought-provoking discussions about Tibetan Buddhism.
BJ & Lauren created RetreaTours in 2010 with one goal in mind: to make world travel accessible, authentic, and astounding. In order to focus fully on this passion, they moved out of the U.S. in January 2013 to reside full-time overseas. Each day is spent exploring new destinations, strengthening local ties & relationships, and creating memorable and transformative retreats and tours (aka, RetreaTours™!)
BJ & Lauren take great pride in the itineraries they plan, as they can personally vouch for every hotel, every restaurant, and every activity that you will experience. They craft each element of the trip with intention, and they understand that it is this careful attention to detail that sets them apart. Fueled by their passion, armed with know-how, and supported by knowledgeable local professionals in all of their destinations, BJ & Lauren set the scene for the vacation of a lifetime. The dynamic duo are available to answer any and all questions before the trip begins. From giving advice on the best flights and travel insurance to providing a packing list, FAQ, and even a tiny “phrasebook,” BJ & Lauren pride themselves on these ‘nuts & bolts’ of personalized service.
In addition, as a guest, you receive free travel consulting services (normally a $300 value) should you choose to extend your travels. As one of their most ‘frequent fliers’ put it recently, BJ & Lauren make everything easy for you. Once you arrive in your destination city, your trip is all-inclusive—your meals, transportation, lodging, site fees, donations, and tips are all taken care of. The research has been done, the itinerary carefully laid out, the reservations made, the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted. All you have to do is show up and take in all your destination has to show you! So….let’s get going!
Perhaps the most important lesson of Ladakh has to do with happiness. Only after many years of peeling away layers of preconceptions did I begin to see the joy and laughter of the Ladakhis for what it really was: a genuine and unhindered appreciation of life itself. In Ladakh I have known a people who regard peace of mind and joie de vivre as their unquestioned birthright.~Helena Norberg-Hodge, Ancient Futures
Read what our 2017 Tricycle Pilgrimage to Ladakh guests have to say…
BJ and Lauren are excellent, knowledgeable, and highly attentive tour leaders. They clearly love what they do, which makes all the difference. Their passion for the culture and people of Ladakh is infectious. This was the trip of a lifetime, thanks to the talent and dedication of BJ and Lauren.
Lauren and BJ are the best tour guides possible. They are totally on top of the areas we visit, have developed and cultivated marvelous local relationships, and rise to any individual need with aplomb and sensitivity. A trip with them is a gift to any traveler seeking insight, fun, and adventure.
Every detail was organized and taken care of. The meditation practices and dharma talks were deep and profound. The staff and our spiritual leaders were top notch. Every experience (even altitude issues) was handled professionally and with great care. I am forever grateful to have gone to Ladakh, and this retreat has deepened my practice and understanding.
I would recommend RetreatTours to anyone looking for a very well organized, off the beaten path adventure. BJ and Lauren attend to every detail and go above and beyond in their helpfulness. The itineraries are excellent, and their connections to hotels and local travel businesses make everything easy. Especially valuable are the friendships they have developed with local people, who will warmly welcome you as a friend of their friends.
It was the perfect Buddhist meditation retreat, thank you to Tricycle, Lauren and BJ for making this trip happen. Come to think of it, it was my favorite trip of the last 70 years!